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Di “Urindanger” Dang Trades High-Stakes Poker for Restaurant Hustle
There was a time when the name Urindanger inspired fear in even the most hardened high-stakes online pro.
One of the most successful online poker players of all time, Di “Urindanger” Dang, together with brother Hac “Trex313” Dang, won over $10,000,000 on Full Tilt Poker alone during online poker’s halcyon days.
These days the Urindanger account lies dormant, however, and Di has no plans to resurrect it any time soon.
Instead Di and Hac moved all-in in a completely different venture: Restaurants.
The brothers opened up a crawfish boil-style joint called Chasin’ Tails in their home state of Virginia.
It’s no easy feat opening a successful restaurant but Chasin’ Tails has turned into a runaway hit with hundreds of near-perfect reviews on Yelp. They've already opened two more locations with more on the way.
Di still enjoys the occasional turn at the tables and bought into $25k Pot-Limit Omaha championship at the WSOP in Las Vegas. PokerListings caught up with Di for a quick chat on the break.
PokerListings: How much poker do you play these days?
Di Dang: I play a little bit on the side sometimes. I just came out to the Series because we have a week off from the restaurant.
PL: Do you still play online at all?
No. I don’t play online anymore.
PL: Is that weird? Do you miss it?
There’s good and bad to it. We’re trying to make it in another area now. So it’s a lot different. But of course you miss the days where you win a lot. You also hated the days where you lost a lot.
Overall it’s a probably a good thing I’m not playing anymore.
PL: How’s the restaurant business?
It’s going pretty well. We have three restaurants now and we’re going to have two more by the end of the year.
It’s a lot busier and more hands on than we thought it would be originally. We just wanted to open, figure out a way to get people in there and then sit back and relax. [laughs] It has not worked out that way.
We’re all very hands on.
PL: What was it like transitioning from professional poker to running a restaurant?
I think a lot of the skills from poker really helped, to be completely honest.
You learn so much from playing poker. You have to have discipline, you have to study and stay on top of your game, there are just so many things. A lot of people wouldn’t expect that the lessons you learn from it would carry on into running a restaurant.
It’s really cool to see the work we put into poker actually help payoff in the restaurant as well.
PL: How does success in poker compare to seeing the great reviews for the restaurant?
It’s the same exact feeling. When we initially got some bad reviews we were really down on ourselves. It’s the same as taking a bad beat in poker. It just hurts a lot.
The good thing about running a restaurant is that you also get an extra reward that you don’t get in poker as much. We get to see a lot of people’s lives improve and stuff like that.
Poker is more of a predatory pursuit. Everybody is just trying to win as much money as possible.
In restaurants we’re trying to make it into a team or a family thing. You feel like you’re bringing a little more value to the world.
PL: Do you feel like you got out of poker at just the right time?
Yeah, honestly, I think that poker is on the decline. That’s probably why we got out but there are still good games.
A lot of my friends that are still in the game tell me about all these games and sometimes I’ll get the itch and want to go to Macau and play with them or Shanghai or wherever the biggest games are now.
But at the end of the day I think it’s for the best because it’s not going to last forever. Everyone is getting so good now. Everyone is playing closer to perfect. There’s not as much of an edge anymore.
There are lot more bad days now.
PL: If a young poker player came up to and asked whether they should pursue poker full-time would you encourage them to go a different direction?
I think so. All you have left is a lot of sharks beating on each other. There’s not as much dead money as before. I don’t think it’s as profitable.
Some people will still make it though. Even if they started out tomorrow because they have the right work ethic, bankroll management, discipline and all that.
Generally it takes a lot more to make it now. I would say most people wouldn’t make it now whereas back in the day I was always pushing all my friends into poker. I would teach them. It was so easy.
PL: All that said, do you still have fun when you play? Is it refreshing to sit down at the poker table again?
Yeah. I’m jittery from not playing so long. I’m a lot more nervous now. This is a $25,000 tournament, which is a really big event, but back in the day we played really high. We bought into Macau for $250,000 one time.
A good day at the restaurant we work for eight hours and make like $5,000. That’s a pretty good day at our new restaurant.
This tournament feels like so much money now after being out of it for awhile. There’s a lot more pressure.
PL: Do you notice the level of play being much higher?
Definitely. There are not nearly as many people throwing their money away. I think the best players study a lot, watch videos and run simulations. We didn’t have that like 6-7 years ago.
They are much more GTO [Game-Theory Optimal]. That’s the right word.
PL: I noticed you had Jens “Jeans89” Kyllonen on your left in the tournament today. Have you played him online before?
Oh wow. I didn’t know that was Jeans. I played with him a lot back in the day. He was one of the guys that played high-stakes a lot. That guy, he’s really good. I remember he never had a losing month. I have a lot admiration for his game.
PL: Does your brother Hac still play at all?
He plays sometimes. He’s like me. He’s in the restaurant a lot now. Sometimes he’ll travel to Canada and play a little bit but for the most part we are getting out of poker.
PL: Are you guys pretty hands-on with the restaurant on a day-to-day basis?
Yeah we’re pretty hands-on. A lot of times you’ll see Hac in the back scrubbing dishes. I’m not kidding. As well as taking out the trash, bussing tables and whatever needs to be done.
That’s really good because it sets a good example for everyone else. We’re in the restaurant every day.
That’s where our new lives are going.
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12 March 2018 70